Are you being fooled by trusting in modern day indulgences instead of God’s pure Grace through the blood of Christ?
Martin Luther, the great reformer, found himself at his last straw when the Roman Catholic church came to Germany to sell their “indulgences” to the people ‘guaranteeing’ their forgiveness from sin. This frustration is what caused Luther to nail his 95 theses to the chapel door at Wittenburg.
In Luther’s day, indulgences were essentially “official” pieces of paper that were sold by the Catholic Church. They were used to make money for the Catholic church’s causes such as building St. Peter’s Basilica. In return, the one buying the indulgence received a signed “official” paper stating that their sins were forgiven, or their punishment was lessened for their sins, and less time in purgatory would be required, if not full absolution depending on how many indulgences one bought. Indulgences could also be bought for their dead relatives, lessening their supposed time in purgatory or hell’s torment. (By the way, purgatory is not a true Biblical concept either. Absent from the body, present with the Lord.. or not, is what the Bible teaches.)
The modern day Catholic church doesn’t sell indulgences; this was officially outlawed by the church in 1567. But you can still ‘earn’ them by doing alms, fasting, or praying in a certain way. These are still the same “works oriented” indulgences whether you officially pay for them or not. This is still extremely un-Biblical.
The only thing that cleanses us from our sins is the Blood of Christ. Jesus gave His perfect blood willingly for our Redemption on the cross of Calvary, rising from the dead 3 days later. This redemption and cleansing of our sins is done when we acknowledge that we are a sinner, repent, and ask for Jesus’s forgiveness for all our sins. When we are truly sorry for being sinners, and ask for God’s Grace and forgiveness, we experience what the Bible calls salvation and Christ’s Righteousness is now imputed to us forevermore. No other ‘act’ is necessary for further forgiveness of sins… it is a once-and-forever-forgiven redemptive justification. All of our eternal destination is decided by that moment of salvation.
Now, of course, we as children of God, still commit sin. For the rest of our lives here on Earth after salvation, we still sin. But it is all eternally forgiven. If we asked Christ to forgive. He did. Forevermore. That is the Truth of scripture.
Our daily right-relationship or fellowship with God is dependent on acknowledging those daily sins, and agreeing with God that they are sins, and asking Him to help us not to sin anymore. But this is purely about having a clean and close relationship, not about eternal salvation. This is where the 1 John 1:9 verse comes in. “If we confess our sins, [agree with God that they are sins and acknowledge that we did them] He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – this makes us be in right daily standing in our relationship with God. And it helps us not to allow sin to reign in our hearts, but allows God to have His first place in our lives, as He should have.
So, today, are we trusting in any “indulgences” to make us right with God? To provide God’s grace and forgiveness in our lives? I hope not. Because it is a false premise.
Here are some modern day ‘indulgences’ I have come up with that people put their trust in, rather than in Jesus’s atoning death & victorious Resurrection:
Every false religion and many false denominations under the Christian umbrella place this as the way to achieve eternal life in Heaven. Working your way into Heaven. Only… no matter how good you are, you can’t be good enough or do enough good things to achieve Heaven. Heaven is a Holy place. Only perfect Holy beings are allowed there. Jesus fit the bill, and because of Him, and His covering blood on my life, I am accepted into Heaven thanks to Christ’s Righteousness being applied to my life. Imputed into my account. Romans 5:19 “For as through one man’s disobedience (Adam) the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One (Jesus) many will be made Righteous.”
We as true Christian’s don’t do good works to gain forgiveness of our sins, or a lessening of any punishment, but rather because we Love Jesus and want to show our love and gratitude to Him by serving Him. Another reason why we serve God in love is to show others ‘I have been saved’ and now I want to show others how they can be saved too!
Universalism is a false belief that since Jesus did die and give His atoning blood, everyone will be saved. Jesus’s blood is so effectual, that it will do the job whether the person asks or not for his sins to be forgiven.
Another type of universalism is that all sincere religious beliefs are really about god, so the sincere believer will attain Heaven, even if they are worshipping a false god.
Both of these ideas are absolutely wrong. They cheapen the Blood of Christ. God’s love for us does not make us robots who submit to His will whether we want to or not. His loving will is for us to have free will, and to choose Him willingly, because He has already chosen us. (It is not His will that any should perish, but all come to repentance!) But He won’t force Himself upon us. We have to willingly choose Him. Love that is forced is not love. Love that is chosen is real love. Romans 10:13 clearly states that “whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” but it doesn’t say all will be saved whether they call on Him or not. You do have a choice to make in this life. What will you do with Jesus? God loves you enough to give you your choice, even if it means you reject Him.
Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” So worshipping any other god, even sincerely, is not a way to Heaven. Only by trusting in Jesus, the One true God, can you live your eternal life with Him in Heaven.
I don’t know if this could be called an indulgence or not, but denial that one sins, or denial that there is eternal repercussions for sins is a type of modern day way of dealing with the whole issue of sin and separation from God. If you deny that sin is real, or that it affects you eternally, well, you yourself become the ‘forgiver’ of your own sin. You indulge yourself that you can indulge yourself – in whatever you want to do.
But the sad truth is, you will find out one day that you will still face God’s judgement, and you will be made to pay for your own sins. The saddest part about this is that Jesus already paid the price for your sins, and if you had acknowledged Him as Lord and Savior on this earth, you wouldn’t have to eternally pay for your own sins. Denial has sent many a sinner to an eternal Hell.
This is a very popular modern “belief” system where the person knows there are spiritual ideas or virtues that they want in their life, but its just a broad category and anyone’s thoughts about this are all good to go. For some it’s knowing there is a “higher power” out there, but never trying to really get to know Him. People who call themselves “spiritual” are promoting a heightened view of the idea of spiritual things but they don’t take the time to get to know the Only True God who gives His children His Holy Spirit to live inside them. This is what the Bible calls “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof” from 2 Timothy 3:5. This verse describes what I believe are some of the saddest words in the Bible. Spirituality is just a weak shadow of having a True relationship with Jesus. While it may make the person a ‘better’ person here on earth, it won’t do a thing for their eternal destination. Spirituality does not save anyone. Only trusting in Jesus as your personal Savior changes you and makes you a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
This was mentioned as part of the universalism umbrella but I will address it on its own here due to its being such a widespread belief. Some people think as long as you are sincere in (insert whatever faith you ascribe to here) you will be accepted into heaven. It’s a belief that all sincere faith-roads lead to Heaven, or that God goes by lots of different names depending on what faith you believe. This is totally false because although you can be totally sincere about something, you can be sincerely wrong. God said “there is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” in Proverbs 14:12. Jesus said “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” in John 14:6. God also made it very clear in both the Old and New Testaments that He alone was God, and He would have no other [false] gods or idols put before Him. That’s number 1 & 2 of the 10 commandments. Pretty basic and straight forward right there.
Finally on this point, think about this: If there are multiple sincere beliefs that provide the path to Heaven, than Jesus is a liar, and that negates everything about who He claimed to be. It also makes it a waste that He gave His life for us and suffered all that He did on the cross, if there were other ways to Heaven already out there just by being “sincere.” No, only through Jesus and His precious blood’s atonement do we have any hope of a true relationship with God in this world and in the next. A lot of sincere people have found that when they were absent from their bodies in death, they ended up in Hell. Don’t let that be you because of a sincere belief in the wrong deity.
You can be immersed in church culture, church events, church services, church commitments, and all the tenets of the church, but if you have never accepted Christ personally as your savior, you will be like the 5 bridesmaids who didn’t get their oil. (Matthew 25, Parable of the 10 virgins) When the Bridegroom returned, they were not ready and were left out of the wedding party. This is a picture of heaven; Jesus is the Bridegroom, and the oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit. Just because you do all things “church” doesn’t mean you have the Holy Spirit living inside you. You only receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit by accepting Christ’s salvation.
Banner of Christianity
There are multiple denominations out there, and some churches in some denominations, that are not truly Christian. They may be under the banner of “Christianity” because they talk about Jesus, but if they don’t believe Jesus is God in the flesh, one person of the eternal Triune God, and that Salvation comes from His blood & atoning sacrifice alone, and that Jesus rose bodily from death and the grave… they are not truly Christian. If anyone adds or subtracts from the words of the Bible, they are none of His. (Rev. 22:19) They will not partake of the Holy City or the Tree of Life (Heaven) described in the Bible.
Be careful, that just because you fall under the banner of Christianity, you still need to make sure you have actually received Christ as your personal savior. There is no “work” or sacrament needed to become a true Christian follower of Jesus. Just acceptance of His work on the cross, and resurrection, and asking for Him to forgive you of your sins. That and that alone is what makes you a Christian; a follower or disciple of Christ. It doesn’t matter if you were raised by Christian parents, went to church all your life, or talk the Christian lingo like a theologian. If you haven’t personally accepted Christ as your Savior, you aren’t His. Jesus said “on judgement day many will say to me Lord Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name? But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws’.” (Matthew 7:22-23 NLT)
So, there you have it. These above are just some of the modern day “indulgences” I thought of. It is not a complete list, I am sure. The point is, there are no ‘indulgences’ that do any good in the forgiveness of sins. Only the shedding of the perfect blood of Christ contained the power to take away our sins, and that is only applied if we accept Him as our personal Savior. Then God says He removes our sins from us, as far as the east is from the west, and casts them into the deepest part of the sea, and He remembers them no more.
This is one of the greatest Truths you can trust in, that God loves you as much as He can possibly love you, no matter what. “We love Him because He first loved us” the Bible declares in 1 John 4:19. There is nothing you can do to make Him love you more than He already does, and no sin you can do that makes Him love you less. But the choice for what you do with Jesus is up to you. And all of your eternity rests on that decision.
After you trust in Christ as your personal Savior, your love for Him and your gratitude for your salvation are what makes you want to serve Him through good works that you do, or alms that you give, or prayers that you pray, etc. Those things are a loving response to God’s great gift of immeasurable Grace that He has poured out on you. They don’t make Him love you any more, or forgive you any more, or punish you any less. (As God’s children, we do get disciplined by our loving Heavenly Father, but not “punished” in any eternal sense. Jesus already took our punishment for all of our sin while He was dying on the cross.) There are no “indulgences” that change how God feels about you. He already loves you perfectly and completely, and forgiveness is completely given at the point of salvation.
Right relationship or fellowship with God on a daily basis is up to you. Have you grieved the Holy Spirit by doing something you shouldn’t have? Make it right. Have you quenched the Holy Spirit by not doing something He was telling you to do? Make it right. Like a child who has to be trained up in the way he should go by loving parents, God will teach us and discipline His children in total love for them, making them more and more like Christ every day.
Remember, indulgences in Luther’s day and even in our own, are not Biblical practices. God’s word has already shown us the way, and we are supposed to walk in it for our continued growth as God’s children. This is, of course, after we have first put our trust in Christ. After that ‘salvation’ moment, all the rest of our life is about God making us more and more like Christ everyday, until in Heaven at last, we are God’s perfected children forevermore.
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